New Delhi: The National Health Authority (NHA) under its Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), had initiated faster OPD registration service for patients via Scan and Share functionality with the aim to cut down long waiting time for patient registration.
The inception of the scheme piloted from a single hospital in New Delhi in October 2022 has now spread its wings to up to 125 districts across 25 States and Union Territories (UTs). At least 700 private and public hospitals avail this facility to patients for registering swiftly via scanning unique QR codes available at the facility.
In February 2023, among the leading user states, Karnataka topped by issuing 2.5 lakh tokens, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in total number of registrations. Recently, the state of Karnataka ranked second in the National Health Authority’s Scan and Share service for faster OPD (outpatient department) registration with a total of 7,40,124 generated tokens.
The service allows patients to simply scan the unique QR Code of the participating hospital/ health facility using any health application of their choice (such as ABHA App, Arogya Setu App, EkaCare, DRiefcase, Bajaj Health, PayTM) and share their ABHA profile.
“Using ABHA we are allowing demographic data of the patient their name, address, age, all these things to be automatically transported to the OPD registration computer, thereby reducing time as well as errors,” said Dr Basant Garg, Additional CEO, National Health Authority (NHA) speaking exclusively to ETHeathworld.
According to Dr Garg, patients are able to save time from 55 minutes to about 4 minutes using this Scan and Share service. He asserted that it helps in considerable time-saving and the patient journey becomes much easier. In addition, the NHA has also set an ambitious target of achieving more than 100 crore Ayushman Bharat Health Accounts (ABHA) registries by the end of the year 2023. As of now, 23.3 crore ABHA cards have been created. ABHA ID acts as an intermediary to pass the information of a patient to the health facility.
ETHealthworld reached out to domain experts including the medical superintendent of Sir C V Raman General Hospital, Dr Radhakrishna who stated that when patients come to the hospital, they scan the barcode and there is no need to stand in the queue. “Patients get the token number after which they can directly go to the counter to collect their OPD card and go to the doctor for his consultation. With the ABHA number, the patient can go to any hospital and all the previous medical history can be retrieved without needing patients to carry all the physical medical reports,” he said.
CV Raman General Hospital was the second state-funded hospital in India, to have implemented QR-code-based registration. Based on his experience with the Scan and Share service, Dr Radhakrishna enumerated several benefits of the scheme namely hassle-free registration, faster consultations leading to less crowding in the OPD area and reduced overall time in seeking treatment.
Scan and Share is one of the first use cases of ABDM to help people realise the benefit of digital health data, said D Randeep, IAS, Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Services, Government of Karnataka, adding that, “Using Scan and Share is ‘one step’ ahead of making use of the digital ecosystem as shown by the State of Karnataka. This also gives people and hospitals a hands-on experience of digitised workflow in hospitals.”
Speaking about the challenges faced by the hospitals across Karnataka during the early implementation of the QR-code-based registries, Randeep said, “Early on, we started with very few hospitals in Bengaluru as a pilot. As we scaled it up, knowledge and experience of ABDM among hospital personnel were low. Repeated training and reviews had to be conducted to gain some momentum. The availability of token number display screens was reported as a challenge. This was overcome by using Ayushman Bharat Arogya Karnataka (AB-PMJAY-ArK) funds flowing to government hospitals.”
Elaborating on the challenges to increase the adoption of digital mission, Dr Garg remarked that in the public sector, large government programmes such as NCD, RCH, and Ni-Kshay, are all onboarding to the ABDM. They are in the process of making the software complaint to ABDM.
“But on the private side, we feel it’s pretty much fragmented. There are a large number of HMIs solutions available and different hospitals are using different kinds of solutions. And we are having more of a conciliatory approach or a more accommodative approach when it comes to software companies. We are trying to encourage them to tweak their software as per ABDM guidelines. We are also trying to encourage hospitals and insurers to ask for ABHA, to ask the citizen, and to encourage the citizen to get registered on ABHA,” added Dr Garg.
ABHA was not available with all patients, said Randeep while decoding the strategy of the Karnataka Government. He added that we created ABHA on-spot for those without it. OTP-based authentication was slow in the initial days. Now it’s picked up, but we started using biometric authentication for ABHA.
According to Randeep, the availability of decent IT infrastructure, the presence of a Hospital Management Information System in all hospitals, motivated manpower in place under eHealth programmes, good orientation, regular reviews and appreciative gestures were some of the right strategies that aided in encouraging hospitals projecting good numbers in patients’ health records linkage.
Dr Basant Garg hinted at the strategy the NHA is going to follow in the coming months to achieve the uphill task of achieving 100 crore ABHA IDs.
NHA is also planning to move to the next level where the sick patients who are going to the laboratory are also going to get access to the digital health records. “The reports will be uploaded on the software and if the patient is registered through ABHA, they will get the reports on their accounts,” providing a lot of convenience for the patients who otherwise would have to travel back just to collect their diagnostic reports.
Through this, the doctor can see all the investigation reports available on the patient’s smartphone. In addition to this, unnecessary duplication would be avoided and with the reports being available for longer duration, it will also be economical for both the hospital and patients. In other words, the Scan and Share is the beginning but the far-reaching effects are there to see.